The New Scientist cover story (from 2009) on why Darwin was wrong about the Tree of Life produced a firestorm of controversy, with arguments on both sides. I’m not a scientist so I have only one criteria to evaluate such scientific theories: Does it pass the smell test? So, let’s try and break it down.
According to a BBC website, Charles Darwin showed how all life is connected with his publication of Origin of the Species. That connection is generally referred to as the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life (from that same website) shows that early animal life started with insects and worms and evolved to sea life, with the earliest forms being jellyfish and starfish. Then the fishes crawled out of the sea and became amphibians (i.e. frogs and toads). The amphibians gave birth to mammals, everything from the hippo to the giraffe to lions…and eventually humans who for the most part came near the end of the evolutionary chain.
So, humans, as well as nearly every other animal life form, evolved indirectly from worms and insects. Well, for me, that doesn’t pass the smell test right there. Besides, how did this all happen? That is, how did the worms and insects become fish and how did the amphibians give rise to mammals?
There is nothing on the Tree of Life to explain the transition from one species to another seemingly unrelated species (e.g. going from a frog to a giraffe and/or a lion). The Tree of Life just assumes that it happened. It’s what I call a “poof” moment (see my last post). That is, the frog just goes poof, and becomes a lion. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand those poof moments. Creationists will no doubt say that it was God and evolutionists will no doubt say that it was just some random cosmic accident (mutation).
As you may know, I’m quite happy being a consensus of one. Interestingly enough, though, I seem to have a lot of company with my take on this one. The real surprise is that one of the criticisms of the Tree of Life comes from someone who was an evolutionist himself. I’m talking about Stephen Jay Gould, the world-renown paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. Gould said that, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”
Therein, lies the problem – fossils, or transitional fossils to be more precise. If evolutionary theory is correct, there had to have been a whole series of species which existed that got us all the way from the frog to the lion, especially since evolution is supposed to have happened gradually over a long period of time. However, after 150 years of intensive searching, there’s hardly any transitional fossils that have been found, as Gould has admitted.
In the end, all I can do is scratch my head at the Tree of Life drawing. It sort of reminds me of the food pyramid chart and how “milk does a body good.” I’d be a monkey’s uncle if I knew why milk should have gotten such great press. However, according to the Tree of Life, I have it backwards, as the monkey should (poof) be my uncle instead. Just poof.
Darwin’s drawing of the Tree of Life (from Origin of the Species) says very clearly at the top “I think”. So, Darwin merely hypothesized that his Tree of Life was possible… but only if his theory of evolution was correct.
“For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life. We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”
– Dr Eric Bapteste, evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris
One of the recurring themes in society today is the ongoing debate between creationists (with Christianity as their advocate) and evolutionists (with atheists as their advocate). The problem is that ideology, on both sides, is driving the discussion. As physicist David Bohm succinctly put it, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” As a result, the diatribe rages on with no realistic chance of ever ending. I, myself, fall somewhere in the middle since I believe that they are both wrong.
Interestingly enough, both sides do agree on one thing. They both believe that the universe was created out of nothing, and from nowhere! Christianity believes that God created the heavens and earth (in six days no less) because a holy book said so and the atheists believe that we all evolved from a bunch of dead chemicals. So this, then, is the ultimate question of creation. That is, exactly how do you create something out of nothing? For me, it just doesn’t pass the smell test. That is, the only thing that can be made out of nothing…is nothing. The fact that both sides use the very same absurd argument is an indication that there is no proof. Therefore, we’re dealing with blind ideology. In fact, we not only have one religion, we have two – belief in God and the belief in materialism.
The God Delusion
Religious texts are not truths. They are simply claims, the word of man about God if you will. After all, how could man possibly understand the Infinite with his finite mind? As the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.”
Religious texts only become “the truth” when a believer takes a leap of faith and adopts such a belief system. Then, and only then, texts are referred to (by the believer) as the Word of God. That’s not to say that God doesn’t exist, only that man’s idea of God is faith-based.
With respect to the Bible’s creation story, there is no evidence that the Garden of Eden was a real place, complete with talking snakes. The story was written by Jewish holy men who considered Genesis to be allegorical; even Origen, a prominent early Christian theologian, believed that to be the case. So, why then does Christianity insist on their Creation story being the Word of God? I hate being redundant and, since I’ve covered this topic in great detail in prior posts, I won’t burden you with having to read it again here as the explanation is quite lengthy.
So, let’s just say that Christianity has deluded itself with respect to its God. They worship an angry, vengeful and violent God (of the Old Testament). And why? Well, because they are joined at the hip with the Old Testament since they adopted it and its creation story. Is there really even one Christian out there who really wants to worship an angry, vengeful and violent God? Probably not, especially since almost all Christians consider God to be all-loving and good.
Bottom line: If there is a God and he created the universe (out of something), then Christianity doesn’t understand their own Creator. As Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” And so they did – invent him, that is.
The Hawking Delusion
Stephen Hawking says that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” The reverse, of course, is also true. That is if there is a God, then he would make science unnecessary. Since science can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, then science may (unbeknownst to everyone) already be somewhat irrelevant. After all, science wants us to believe that somehow the cosmos, with no intelligence behind it whatsoever, was able to (poof) materialize out of mindless nothingness. Just poof.
Atheists do not believe in God so they need an explanation as to how, and why, man came into existence without the help of a Creator. Thus, a belief in materialism. Geneticist Richard Lewontin, an atheist himself, explained just how that thought process works: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” As a result, ideology, not science, rules the day.
As Lewontin said, materialism is absolute. So, the atheist having accepted materialism, will embrace evolution. The attraction of evolution, according to neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, an atheist himself, is that since evolution doesn’t require a blue print, it doesn’t require a blue print maker either. The end result is a worldview that life began, as physicist and Nobel laureate Arno Penzias noted, as the result of an absurdly improbable cosmic accident.
Bottom line: Science has deluded itself that it understands the cosmos, in direct opposition to what Einstein said that the human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. However, who needs proof when you have Stephen Hawking?
“The difference between science and philosophy is that the scientist learns more and more about less and less until she knows everything about nothing, whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”
– Dorion Sagan
Life is somewhat a question of time. That is, between birth and death all you have is time. It’s such a mysterious and elusive thing that no one seems to know exactly what to make of it.
Nevertheless, almost everyone seems to have weighed in on the subject. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant described space and time as a priori notions that allow us to experience the world around us. Then, Einstein came along with his theory of relativity and said that space and time (space-time) were mathematical constructs. So, does time really exist? That’s the $64,000 question. Apparently, physicists aren’t sure. Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford, had this to say about the subject, “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics. The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”
In the field of cosmology, there is another factor apparently in play. In an article in Nature, two prominent researchers called out the scientific community for breaking away from science’s mandate of experimental confirmation in the development of new theories. This comes directly on the heels of exotic theories such as String Theory, the Multiverse and supersymmetry. The two researchers who wrote the article, George Ellis, professor emeritus of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Joe Silk, professor of physics at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and at Johns Hopkins University, stated that “a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.”
Yes, falsifiable, just as science philosopher Sir Karl Popper stated in his groundbreaking work Conjectures and Refutations. Accordingly with respect to the Multiverse theory (for example), the additional universes of the multiverse would lie beyond man’s powers of observation, as they would be beyond space and time and, therefore, could never be directly investigated. So, a theory like the Multiverse Theory could only ever be, at best, an approximation of reality. At worst…well, let’s just say that it might make good science fiction.
As John Horgan discussed in his book, The End of Science, the conundrum for theoretical scientists is whether or not they can remain relevant. After all, there is a limit to knowledge as science attempts to push beyond what’s observable (beyond space and time). Theoretical science is almost by definition limited in that regard regardless of what scientists like Stephen Hawking might say. Quoting Stephen Hawking might make good press but it doesn’t necessarily make good science. For example, Hawking, in his book The Grand Design, said that, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” This is not a fact, but rather an unproven theory and, I would argue, tantamount to a declaration of faith (in an ideology). After all, Hawking has gone on record as saying that science makes God unnecessary.
So, from my perspective, scientific theory is a moving target and it’s only a matter of time before many of the current scientific theories get replaced with new ones. That’s why we have previously moved on from theories like the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. Since some current scientific theories are incompatible with each other (e.g. the rules of general relativity seem incompatible with those of quantum physics), it’s only a matter of time before the next shoe falls, or as Adam Frank said in his book About Time, “In an era in which the search for quantum gravity has multiplied dimensions and the discovery of dark energy has sent cosmologists back to their blackboards, all the fundamentals seem up for grabs.”
Despite all of the research, time is still an enigma and that may not be changing any time soon. Great minds like Einstein and Planck concur that the fundamental laws of nature are beyond man’s ability to comprehend them. Despite that, scientists claim to understand the cosmos – that things called dark matter and dark energy make up most of the known universe. However, they have yet to find either. Perhaps, it has something to do with what Confucius once said, “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”
“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”
– David Eagleman, neuroscientist
In a recent post, I mentioned that Richard Dawkins freely discussed the possibility that evolution may have been the result of an “intelligent designer.” I got some flak, understandably so perhaps, because Dawkins has repeatedly said that he doesn’t believe in Intelligent Design. Of course, what he discussed with Ben Stein calls into question how strongly be believes in that belief system. What follows is a transcript of the interview that he did with Ben Stein. So, you decide.
Stein: How did it (the universe) get created?
Dawkins: By a very slow process. We know the kind of event that it must have been. We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
Stein: What was that?
Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.
Stein: How did it happen?
Dawkins: I told you. We don’t know.
Stein: So, you don’t have any idea how it started.
Dawkins: Nor does anyone.
Stein: What do think is the possibility that intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in evolution?
Dawkins: It could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe some civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed the form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility. I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence of that when you look at the details of our chemistry or molecular biology of some sort of designer. That designer could well be a higher intelligence than elsewhere in the universe. That higher intelligence would itself had to have come about by some inexplicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously.
The remainder of the interview dealt with questions about things like the existence of the gods of religion so I did not bother to detail it here, although you can watch the entire interview on YouTube if you so desire.
So let’s recap, what Dawkins said.
Dawkins on the origin of life: It comes from a self-replicating molecule. However, no one knows how it happened.
Comment: Nor can science even trace life back to a self-replicating molecule. So, if no one knows how it happened, then you can’t say with any confidence what the origin was. Ergo, the concept of a self-replicating molecule is based on an ideology. That is, as Dawkins said, “We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.” To be more precise, Dawkins knows the kind of event which is consistent with his own ideology. As Paul Feyerabend, a well-known philosopher of science, once said, “Thus science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit… it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without having ever examined its advantages and its limits.”
Dawkins on an “intelligent designer”: An intriguing possibility.
Comment: So intriguing, in fact, that he laid out a whole scenario of how it could have happened.
The Dawkins scenario: Possibly due to a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization which seeded life onto this planet.
Comment: Sound familiar? It should because it’s the Directed Panspermia Theory of Francis Crick.
Dawkins: “That designer could well be a higher intelligence than elsewhere in the universe.”
Comment: Dawkins admits that the origins of life (the first self-replicating molecule) are unknown but that it might have been caused by an extraterrestrial civilization. Bottom line – Dawkins admits that evolution is not a fact.
Dawkins: “…it’s possible that you might find evidence of that when you look at the details of our chemistry or molecular biology of some sort of designer.”
Comment: Yes, Dawkins used the dreaded “d” word (again).
So, perhaps there is a disconnect on what Dawkins has said and how it has been interpreted. After all, it was Dawkins who said at a recent TED conference that now he has proof that evolutionary theory is correct. The implication is that he must not have been certain in the past even though he said that he was. Based on the Stein interview, Dawkins may not “believe” in Intelligent Design but he certainly acknowledged the possibility of it, even referring to it as intriguing. After all, we’re talking about theories as to the origin of life. You may believe in one theory and yet acknowledge the possibility of other theories. The point is that, in this case, none of these theories have yet to be proven.
So, evolution is still just a theory, not a fact. Does that sway anyone to change their support of evolution? Probably not. After all, ideology is virtually unassailable. Interestingly enough, though, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, in his book Mind and Cosmos, does argue that the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false. Disclosures can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. Just ask Richard Dawkins.
Jim Gates, a theoretical physicist and a pioneer of supersymmetry, has found that scientific equations which describe the fundamental nature of the universe contain embedded computer codes. The same thing could be said for DNA, as Bill Gates readily admits. So, if DNA and the laws of nature contain computer codes, where’s the programmer?
“A scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written.”
– H. P. Yockey, physicist and information theorist
I was reading a blog recently entitled Refuting 5 False Theories About Jesus. It was Christian apologetics at its finest. I couldn’t have disagreed with it more. The part that quickly caught my attention was one of the so-called false theories called “Jesus The Failed Prophet.” I’ll try and break it down for you.
The author traces the “failed prophet” theory to German scholar Albert Schweitzer, and correctly so. However, Schweitzer wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill scholar. First of all it’s important to note that Schweitzer was a Christian theologian. He was the author of The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle and his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus is considered a seminal work of biblical scholarship. Schweitzer was also a world-famous missionary in Africa and he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life.”
Aside: Schweitzer’s background is extremely relevant in that a reader, especially a young reader, of Refuting 5 False Theories About Jesus might otherwise think that Schweitzer was just another scholar who might easily be dismissed. Keep in mind, the blogger apparently taught theology at the high school level.
The author then accuses Schweitzer of cherry-picking the evidence. Well, the term cherry-picking, as it applies to biblical scholarship, was coined because it applies specifically to Christian apologetics. If you are defending the Bible as the unerring Word of God, you obviously can’t cherry-pick. The Bible has to be spot on, every time. However, if one is simply pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible, then cherry-picking does not apply since the only question is whether or not the Bible can be considered the unerring Word of God.
Aside: Christian apologists never seem to understand the point that it’s okay to believe in something and have faith in that belief system, but it is intellectually dishonest to say that the Bible is the infallible Word of God when it contains so many inconsistencies.
Next, the author tries to refute certain biblical passages that Schweitzer cites, passages which clearly state that Jesus was returning in the lifetime of the disciples. He focuses on Matthew 24:36 to try to prove that Jesus confessed ignorance as to the timing of his return. That’s somewhat true, although woefully incomplete. Just prior to Matthew 24:36, in Matthew 24:34, Jesus actually says that the end of the world will occur in the lifetime of the disciples. C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist himself, said of this passage, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” Actually, it’s more than embarrassing for Christianity because Schweitzer, a Christian theologian himself, felt compelled to take the skeleton out of the closet, so to speak.
So, Jesus didn’t profess complete ignorance as the author said. Rather, Jesus gave a timeline for the end of the world (“this generation”), just not the exact day and hour. Jesus goes on to say that, since the exact hour is not known, everyone should be alert for his coming (Matthew 24:42) and to be ready for his coming (Matthew 24:44). In other words, the final hour is at hand.
Then, the author makes what is, to me, an astonishing admission. He says that certain critics “mistakenly suppose that first-century Jewish apocalyptic language…must have been intended literally.” This was in reference to the aforementioned passage in Matthew 24. So, according to the author, this Bible passage is not intended to be taken literally! He admits that the Bible can’t be completely read in a literal fashion. I’m still speechless, although Christian apologist Paul Copan pretty much admitted the very same thing (see my recent post Was it Genocide? Was it God?).
To a get a more complete picture, though, let’s more fully review what the Bible reveals about Jesus’ return. Here’s some of the more pertinent Bible passages:
- “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30)
- “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.” (Luke 21:32)
- “ For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
- “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:36)
- “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”(Matthew 10:23) Note: This was spoken by Jesus to his disciples.
Comment: So Mark and Luke confirm the passage in Matthew 24:34, whereby the End of Days will occur during the lifetime of the current generation. The other passages also confirm that Jesus wlll return in the lifetime of the disciples (the current generation).
- “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
- “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
- “And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.'” (Revelation 22: 6,7)
- “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near…Behold, I am coming soon….'” (Revelation 22:10,12)
- “He (Christ) was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20)
- “The end of all things is at hand.…” (1 Peter 4:7)
- ” He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
- “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)
- “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29,31)
- “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:8,9)
Comment: So, it’s plainly obvious to most anyone other than a Christian apologist that these passages refer to something that will occur very soon, as opposed to two thousand years later.
- ” Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)
- Luke 9:27 and Mark 9:1 confirm the passage in Matthew 16:28, whereby some of those standing before Jesus will not taste death until they have seen the arrival of the kingdom.
- “ For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
Comment: The above passages indicate that some of the people of that generation will yet be alive when Jesus returns. In other words, the End of Days will occur during the current generation.
- “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.'” (2 Peter 3:4)
Comment: Obviously, in early Christianity, there was a lot of questions about the fact that Jesus did not return as promised.
The apocalyptic vision of Jesus and his followers is replete throughout the New Testament – from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to Peter to Revelation to Paul. The focal point of their apocalyptic vision was that this would all occur in their lifetime, as it clearly says in the Bible itself. They were preaching the End of Days and they expected it to happen very soon. Albert Schweitzer, in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, states that Jesus was preparing his followers for the imminent end of the world. As Jesus, himself, says in Mark 1:15, “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Their message was that the faithful would be saved from the coming apocalypse. Without this promise of salvation, the message would have mostly fallen on deaf ears. People want to know that they are going to be saved – in their lifetime. Who would ever follow a messiah if they knew that he would leave and not return for at least two thousand years to finally make good on his promise. No one, of course.
In early Christianity, there was no Bible and few people, if any, ever read the scriptures (since the masses were illiterate). Further, there was disagreement even within the Christian community as to what was acceptable dogma; for example, see Luke 1:1-4 and Paul’s writings (2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9). It was the 4th century church that finally decided the fate and direction of Christianity and as a result early Christianity luminaries like Origen, one of the first Christian theologians, and church father Clement of Alexandria were declared heretics by the Church. So, interestingly enough, if Origen and Clement were alive today, Christian apologists would have to be arguing these issues with them as well. Now that would be downright embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
“Jesus of Nazareth was an apocalyptic prophet who anticipated the imminent end of the age and who warned his Jewish compatriots to repent in view of the cosmic crisis that was soon to come. God, Jesus proclaimed, would intervene in the course of history to overthrow the forces of evil, sending from heaven a divine-like figure called the Son of Man in a cataclysmic act of judgment. This Son of Man would bring a new order to this world, a utopian kingdom to replace the evil empire that oppresses God’s people. And this was to occur within Jesus’ generation.”
– Bart Ehrman, biblical scholar and theologian
Although not a scientist, I still occasionally opine on things scientific… without ever using any sort of scientific method. Oddly enough, science sometimes does the very same thing, itself. That’s how we got theories like the flat earth, the sun rotates around the earth…and the current poster child, The Big Bang Theory.
Some say that there’s a number of glaring scientific deficiencies in The Big Bang Theory. Not being a scientist, though, it’s not something for me to expound on. I work on logic, with lots of intuition liberally applied. On that basis alone, The Big Bang Theory is sheer nonsense.
How did we get here?
It has been my observation that scientists sometimes violate their own rules. That is, they simply fail to observe (and measure). So, just how is it possible that something so basic to the scientific process is so completely ignored? Well, Robert Lanza, a scientist himself, offered up an explanation of sorts, “We have failed to protect science against speculative extensions of nature, continuing to assign physical and mathematical properties to hypothetical entities beyond what is observable in nature.”
Speculative extensions of nature and hypothetical entities, those are big words. What exactly did he mean by that? Speculative extension of nature has to do with the fact that science has pushed beyond what’s observable in nature. When that happens, you can no longer observe…so they speculate and hypothesize instead…and then pass it off as valid scientific theory. So, today, cosmological theories dealing with such things as black holes, singularities and dark matter, are just that – theories, and speculative theories to boot. None of them are based on observation and so none of them have followed the scientific method.
Aside: Einstein, himself, published a scientific paper saying that the existence of black holes would violate his Theory of Relativity. Other scientists have since concurred that gravitational collapse is impossible.
Even scientific geniuses like Einstein recognized the struggle to find certainty in their own work. As Einstein stated, “The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe.” In other words, the fundamental laws of nature are beyond man’s ability to comprehend them. Yet, it didn’t keep Einstein from trying (The Theory of Relativity, for example).
By definition, theoretical science produces theories, not proof. Part of the problem is that these theories are generally based on mathematics and their formulae exist only on chalkboards, rather than being based on experiments performed in the laboratory as one might expect. Worse, these very formulae use fudge factors like eternity, dark matter or Einstein’s infamous “cosmological constant.” Einstein, himself, referred to the problem with math, as follows: “As far as mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
So, what we wind up with is theories in search of some relevant facts. This is exactly backwards when compared to the proper process of scientific inquiry. Accordingly, even the scientists working on these theories often decry the state of affairs. For example, with respect to singularities, Professor Andrew Strominger of Harvard University, said that, “A singularity is when we don’t know what to do. What’s so embarrassing about singularities is that we can’t predict what’s going to come out of it.” That’s because scientists can’t even say for certain what a singularity is. I mean they believe that it exists because its part of their formulae, but no one has ever observed a singularity. As for The Big Bang Theory, Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, stated, “If inflation is the dynamite behind the Big Bang, we’re still looking for the match.” In other words, as Prof. Strominger admitted, there are a lot of things that scientists don’t understand, and yet, strangely, they still describe them in a very precise way. That explains Richard Dawkins statement to a recent TED conference that now he has proof that evolutionary theory is correct. The implication is that he must not have been certain in the past even though he said that he was.
Aside: Of course, since the Big Bang had a match there must also have been a match lighter. So science has developed some new, exotic theories to try and explain away the problem (see below).
The theory of everything
So, now that you understand a little bit of the process as to how science works, let’s tackle what Einstein and Stephen Hawking spent their whole careers searching for (in vain) – the Theory of Everything. Again, I’m not a scientist so I come from a totally different point of view. For me, such a theory can only be valid if it explains the basis of life. After all, a theory of everything, by definition, must explain how life operates and where it came from.
Back in the nineteenth century, world-renown microbiologist Louis Pasteur helped develop the Law of Biogenesis. Today, Pasteur has been relegated by many to the dustbin of science, although his theory is as valid today as it was then. What’s so important about his work is that Pasteur proved that it was not possible for life to have evolved from a bunch of dead chemicals (read: primordial soup). Life could only come from life. Even George Wald, an ardent evolutionist, eventually admitted that it had been scientifically proven that spontaneous generation of a living organism was impossible.
So, any theory which deals with the origins of the universe (e.g. The Big Bang Theory) has to allow for the evolution of life, especially that of man. Needless to say, The Big Bang Theory does not provide such an explanation. Darwin, you understand, simply said that we evolved, randomly mutated as it were. Richard Dawkins expounded on Darwin’s theory saying that,”… life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA….”
So, for Dawkins, DNA is superior to man, and why not. DNA is a miracle. There are trillions of cells in our body each encoded with DNA instructions on how to operate and grow our bodies. Bill Gates has said that, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” More importantly, the work of Russian molecular biologist Pjotr Gariaiev, who was part of The Human Genome Project, has shown that DNA is self-organizing, self- directing and self-replicating. Further, neuroscientist David Eagleman duly noted that the brain’s neural circuitry uses algorithms undreamt of in modern science. So our bodies are operated by a “living” biological system whose programming is far more advanced than any supercomputer. So, in one sense, Dawkins is right in that the level of sophistication of DNA virtually makes it a life-form unto itself.
Aside: Yet, Dawkins never explained who created DNA. Inexplicably, science has been unable to identify the origins of DNA or the intelligence behind it. Up until recently, most scientists even said that DNA was 90% junk – in other words, useless.
All of which brings us to consciousness, which is the nothing short of the trade secret of cosmology. Physicist Max Planck said, “I regard consciousness as fundamental. We cannot get behind consciousness. ” Yet, cosmologists usually eschew research on consciousness. Why? That’s a big question but, for starters, consciousness infers Intelligent Design which is totally incompatible with evolutionary theory. Then, there’s all the sacred cows in cosmology which would have to be jettisoned (along perhaps with peoples’ careers). I, for one, wouldn’t lose any sleep over it, but I sincerely doubt that the scientific community would ever allow such a thing to occur.
The end of science
So, what we’re stuck with are a bunch of theories that have never been observed, let alone proven. For example in his much-discussed book, The End of Science, John Horgan talked about the limitations of science as it goes into areas that are unobservable (e.g. what lies beyond space and time). In order to remain relevant, science seems to feel obliged to try and go further back – back beyond The Big Bang. Otherwise, what we would all be left with is the incredible miracle of the universe instantaneously appearing out of nothing, and from nowhere. Oddly enough, the only people who might believe such a miracle would be the creationists, because that’s what they said that God did.
Accordingly, we now have a bunch of new theories that attempt to explain that while The Big Bang really was the beginning of our universe, it was not the very beginning of life. Life apparently came from other worlds (the Multiverse). However, if true, that only changes the question of how our universe was created to a question of how the Multiverse was originally created. Since that question will most assuredly never be answered, it will make it possible for anyone, indeed everyone, to espouse their favorite theory. Since science will presumably not address the issue of life having to be created by life, it might even lead some people to posit that DNA might be some artificial form of intelligence, and that it created itself! Are you listening R.D.?
As shocking as that may seem, what’s more shocking is that Dawkins has actually admitted that DNA might have been the result of an “intelligent designer.” Really, he said that? Yes, in an interview with Ben Stein. Check it out for yourself on YouTube. It sort of harkens back to the Directed Panspermia theory of Francis Crick who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the molecular structure of DNA.
My conclusion is that the objections to Intelligent Design by scientists are usually based on ideology, rather than science. As I’ve always said there are many different disciplines in science but really just two kinds of scientists – those that believe in a Creator and those that don’t. Accordingly, science has developed a series of cosmological theories that I believe really have only one point – that the universe does not have an intelligent designer. Unfortunately, for some, DNA cannot be explained away in the usual fashion. Genetics is moving so fast that it’s beginning to eclipse science in other disciplines, like cosmology and biology, with respect to the origins of man.
So that’s my take on everything from the Big Bang to the human genome. Like I said, my thinking is not scientific – but maybe that’s a good thing. After all, what would children’s books say if there was no Big Bang Theory. I might have to read a fairy tale to my kids entitled Once Upon a Bang-less Night.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”
– Max Planck, physicist
Most every day I read a blog about the evil in the world, the battle in the heavens against Lucifer, the Second Coming etc. etc. etc. Personally, it’s tiresome to continually listen to that type of dialogue. However, the topic does deserve some comment. So here goes.
Religions generally espouse an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God because it’s what sells in church on Sunday. People want to hear that someone other than themselves (like,say, the devil) is responsible for the evil in the world. They want to hear that God is great and will prevail in the end (Armageddon). As one Christian website proudly stated, “Some day God will ultimately and finally overcome evil entirely.”
Aside: I guess this omnipotent God must currently be struggling to prevail against Satan. That’s why they used words like “ultimately”, “finally” and “entirely.”
There are two basic concepts that most religious people don’t know, have forgotten about or find it convenient to just disregard, as follows:
We exist in a free will universe.
If you believe in God, then you have to believe that God gave you free will. Without free will, you would simply be just a form of AI created by God. In a free will universe, God’s gift to you is life. By definition, then, he can’t interfere. That is, free will and intervention by God are incompatible concepts. So, quit expecting God to save you. We all need to accept personal responsibility for the ills in the world.
Aside: Okay, some of you probably don’t believe in free will, which is no doubt attributable to a deterministic bent. The point is that we don’t even know what consciousness is so how can one say for certain that free will doesn’t exist? Truth be told, you don’t believe in God anyway – now do you?
God created everything
Of course, that’s true, a lot of you will say. Silly me, I forgot to add that, by definition then, he also created evil. How so? Well, he created man didn’t he? Didn’t he also create the serpent (see Genesis 3:1)? You do believe that God is omniscient, don’t you? Put simply, an omniscient God that created everything knew that he was creating evil, and did so intentionally. Yes, intentionally.
I didn’t say that the creation of evil was necessarily a bad thing, though. In a dualistic world such as what we exist in, good cannot exist without evil. So, who’s to say that evil isn’t really a necessity of Creation. In other words, how would you know what good is without also experiencing evil?
So, the common factor that free will and evil share….is God. That is, if you believe in God then it’s only logical to believe that God created both free will and evil. Under those circumstances, why be so quick to judge and complain about the evil in the world. Rather, why not do something about it. Be the change that you want to see in the world, rather than expecting God to come down here and take you on a magic carpet ride. If everyone in the world would save one person, we could save everyone on the planet. So, start by saving just one person – save yourself. I think even atheists could agree with that!
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him….”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Based on the reaction to my last post, I still feel that way too many people don’t understand the difference between “the meaning of my life” and “the purpose of my life.” They frequently use words like purpose, meaning, fulfillment, and satisfaction interchangeably. So, let’s start with some definitions:
According to Merriam-Webster, purpose is:
- the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something
- the feeling of being determined to do, or achieve, something
- the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.
One example of a purpose of one’s life is to feed the homeless. Another example would be to express oneself artistically so as to feel fulfilled and satisfied.
With respect to meaning, Wikipedia offers different flavors of the word “meaning” but the one being discussed here is as follows:
- The meaning of life, a notion concerning the nature of human existence
In order to clarify things a bit, perhaps, a few more quotes might be in order:
- “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”
– Henry Miller
- “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
– Joseph Campbell
- “Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got…and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.”
– Ron Currie Jr., Everything Matters!
For those of you who are religious, I offer you this quote from King Solomon in the Bible: “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The reason for what King Solomon said is that God created us for that which is beyond what we can experience (and understand) in our lives. Thus, the attempt by religion to comprehend the incomprehensible.
Going back to Wikipedia, the key element in the meaning of life has to do with the nature of our existence. For example, how did humanity originate and is there a reason why a species like ours exists? Do we have a place in the cosmos?
In that regard, I would offer up the following thoughts:
- What is the nature of reality? I would say that we don’t know. Even Einstein would agree that man cannot grasp the universe. Therefore, if you can’t say what reality is, how can you answer such a question as what is the meaning of life?
- Any definition of the meaning of life has to start with an assumption with respect to the existence of God. Whether you believe in a Creator, or not, totally colors your perception of life – and, therefore, its ultimate meaning.
Perhaps, this extra commentary helps clarify this matter.. or perhaps not. I didn’t mean to muddy up the water…or, then again, maybe I did. Yes, life has meaning…or maybe it doesn’t. In any event, as Ron Currie Jr. said, some meaning is way more preferable to a life of no meaning. That’s why everything matters.
I hear the same question from nearly everyone, deists and atheists alike. That is, what gives my life meaning? Everyone wants to know, since without that understanding living often seems futile. So, let me take a whack at it.
Animals, like say a zebra, have no purpose in life, other than possibly to sustain the feeding cycle for other animals. Neither are they even aware of the universe around them. Man alone, who is uniquely endowed with consciousness, ponders the question. After all, it takes consciousness to even ask the question.
Some people think that if they dedicate themselves to some cause, like making the world a better place, that this will give their life meaning. Props to you if you are one of those people but mere existence is ultimately meaningless, even if it leads to a better species. That is, towards what end does a species exist? To merely survive, even to thrive and to feel good about being alive? So having a purpose in life is one thing, but to have a life with meaning is altogether another thing.
That brings us back to the original question that people keep asking, even those of you who are “making a difference.” What is there about this question that is so elusive? Why do people from all walks of life keep searching for the answer?
To seek an answer to that question, let’s first start with Darwin. Evolutionary theory states that we are the by-product of natural selection of the fittest. So, according to evolutionary theory, then, we must be without plan or purpose, produced by random errors which are referred to as mutations. Darwin’s answer to the question why are we here is this: We are here simply because we evolved. Richard Dawkins further amplified Darwin’s theory. He stated that, “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Aside: Of course, Dawkins never stated where DNA came from and exactly who designed it. We’re talking about trillions of cells in our body each encoded with instructions on how to operate and grow our bodies. The neural circuitry in our brains, alone, uses algorithms undreamt of in modern science, way beyond the capabilities of the most sophisticated supercomputer.
Scientific theory states that all the matter in the universe and all the laws of nature came into existence in a split second – out of nothing. As Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, put it, “If inflation is the dynamite behind the Big Bang, we’re still looking for the match.” Ah, the match that sparked the universe. So, since our universe had a beginning, it had to have had a cause (the match), and in that case a match lighter.
We are made up of atoms and since those atoms dissolve into the nothingness of the quantum world (according to the likes of Albert Einstein), what gives them any meaning? We can intellectualize all we want that we are real and that, being real, life must have meaning but the truth is that it’s the source of atoms that gives substance to our reality. Therefore, any meaning attached to our reality is predicated on that very same source.
I’ve compiled some thoughts on this matter from diverse fields of endeavor. Of course, I got to select them so I won’t apologize if they may seem slanted.
From the field of psychology:
The decisive question is: Are we related to the infinite or not? The quest for the cosmic connection is a fundamental requirement of the self, thus the development of myths and religion. – Carl Jung
From the field of science:
Life is the most mysterious of all the wonders of creation because atoms have been assembled in such a way so that they can ponder their own existence. – Astrophysicist Martin Rees
“Our brains mathematically construct objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time….” – Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe
From the field of religion:
“If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality….”
– Douglas Wilson
From the field of philosophy:
“To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
The source in question that I referred to above is beyond space and time, as obviously there was nothing in the instant before the Big Bang. Therefore, no one can say with any degree of certainty what “the source” actually is. Deists can’t prove that it is God and atheists can’t prove that it isn’t. One thing that we do know, though, is that there is such a source – something or someone so powerful that it created the universe out of nothing. Something caused the universe to come into being and that something, being incredibly intelligent as it would have had to have been, had awareness (unless it was a form of AI) and therefore a reason for its actions. That reason, whatever it is, is the meaning that our lives have.
I said at the beginning that I would take a stab at this issue. It was only just a stab. However, I only left out one detail. I’ll let you fill in the blank.
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
Recently, I was reading an interview with Paul Copan, a noted Christian apologist, who wrote a book with Matthew Flannagan entitled “Did God Really Command Genocide?” Genocide in the Bible is a sticky issue for the Christian community because it does not compute with respect to an all-loving God. So, for example, the Bible says, “And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain (Deuteronomy 2:34).” Well, that’s a problem. How to explain it?
Christian apologetics is forever trying to reconcile this story, as well as many others like Sodom and Gomorrah or the murdering of new-born babies during The Exodus, with the concept of an all-loving God. For example, Copan says that these stories used hyperbole and therefore were exaggerated. So much, I guess then for the Bible being the Word of God. If the Bible stories were exaggerated, they couldn’t very well be considered the Word of God, now could they?
Depending on your point of view, the Great Flood might definitely be considered to be the biggest genocide in the Bible. So, how have people responded to this question? Here’s a short list:
- The Great Flood was not a literal historical event. Comment: Again, given that perspective, the Bible could not be the Word of God.
- The people of Noah’s day were going to die eventually anyway. Comment: Enough said.
- God can do whatever he wants. What God does will always be just and will always be good. Therefore, God only acts in accordance with his own nature. God cannot lie, for example. – Reverend David Robertson Comment: Need I remind everyone that God lied about Adam and Eve dying if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge.
- God said it was not he that brought destruction, but the evil brought it on themselves. – Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews” Comment: Were the infants and newborns evil? Did they deserve to perish also? Couldn’t an all-loving and omnipotent God have spared them? Let’s keep in mind that the Great Flood was also a case of ecocide. Everything on Earth was obliterated, including the animals. Why not kill the evil ones and keep everything else?
Anyway, exactly who created the “evil” ones of the Bible? An omniscient God? Of course, an omniscient God, by definition, would have known in advance that his creation would become evil. In fact, the creation of evil had to be an intentional act of an omniscient God.
Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions
A typical Christian response to the genocide issue can be found on the website ThinkingChristian.net. It gives its readers three options, and only three options, to deal with the questionable actions of God in the Old Testament, as follows:
- God is wrong and morally culpable (blamable) for his actions as God concerning all the deaths in history, and genocide is just another instance of this; or
- God is not wrong (and therefore not morally culpable) for his actions concerning all the deaths in history, except for genocide…; so he remains morally culpable in the case of the Old Testament genocides; or
- God is not wrong (and therefore not morally culpable) for his actions concerning all the deaths in history…; so God is not morally at fault for the Old Testament genocides.
Without going into the logic of ThinkingChristian with respect to the three options, the problem (as stated) is faulty. See if you can figure out why.
In contrast, a typical response of many atheists is that God is imaginary. Even though I’m not an atheist, I’ll give them props for being half-right. They’re general premise is somewhat correct, albeit woefully incomplete. Interestingly enough, both the deists and the atheists have used a faulty assumption in their arguments – and it’s the very same assumption for both! Have you figured it out yet?
The proof is in the pudding (the Bible)
The Biblical stories of repeated genocide prove one thing to me. That is, the god of the Old Testament isn’t all-loving; neither is he omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent. I’ve previously written a number of posts on this topic so I won’t bore you again with all the details. Let’s just say that the God of the Old Testament should be referred to as god, with a little “g.”
In short, what we have in the Old Testament are stories that purport to be about God, stories about genocide. However, there’s no proof that it is God, only that some anonymous authors said so. More to the point, these anonymous authors said that some entity (quite often with a different name than the previous entity) said that he was God. Furthermore, no one even seems to know what the original sources for the Old Testament were. Contrasting that, we have the writings of Paul and John in the New Testament that say that God is an invisible spirit and that no man has ever seen God. Both viewpoints can’t be right. So, which one do you choose? Oddly enough, Christians worship them both.
Aside: Remind me again why anyone would want to worship the angry, vengeful and violent god of the Old Testament.
That takes us back full circle to the three options (from above). You’ve probably guessed it by now, but the assumption that everyone is making is that they all assume that the god of the Old Testament is the Prime Creator. That is, the deists make that assumption because the Bible says so and, for the purpose of this argument, the atheists do too.
However, in addition to the three options stated above, there’s a fourth option. This fourth option is based on simple logic, and the Bible itself. According to Christianity, God is all-loving (e.g. see 1 John 4:8) and, by definition then, would never have committed genocide. Therefore, there is no way that the god of the Old Testament is the Prime Creator. Of course, that begs the question of who this entity was and why a religion is based on him.
Aside: The fourth option is also confirmed by ancient texts, texts which predate the writing of the Old Testament. These texts are quite explicit about who the gods of the Old Testament were. For further clarification, see my prior posts.
However, that leaves us with these two camps, neither of which (no doubt) is very happy with my solution. The deists want to believe badly that they are God’s chosen people and that they possess the one and only authentic holy book. That’s the one and only. Never mind, that each religion defines God, and his creation, differently and they all can’t be right. In the other camp, the atheists are dissatisfied because they were hoping to prove that God doesn’t exist simply by demonstrating that the god of the Bible is imaginary. Well, I agree. The god of the Bible is imaginary. So what? Even if you also proved that the God of Islam, the God of Buddhism and the gods of all of the other religions were also imaginary (which, of course, you’re not going to do), it would still prove nothing. You can’t successfully argue from an “absence of evidence” standpoint.
Genocide in the Bible is an interesting topic, but ultimately one that is not very gratifying (at least for me). Besides, I never understood how there could be a definitive conclusion to such a debate over a God who is, in reality, infinitely incomprehensible. So, if any of you know what exists beyond space and time, please let me know.
P.S. By the way, any pictures that you may have of God would be greatly appreciated.
The problem with much of theology is that it’s a slippery slope. When you don’t distinguish between fact and faith, you inevitably get all tangled up in your own underwear. Even Paul Copan is smart enough to realize that you cannot defend an imaginary God; and one could say that, in his mind, parts of the Bible have been reduced to not much more than urban legend.
“So smote all the country … he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.”